INDUSTRIA’s Nino Bonev on Corda Development

Meet Nino, who is INDUSTRIA’s Corda Team Lead, his two dogs and beautiful house near Rila mountain.

Industria: Tell us about yourself

Nino B.: I love mountains, even though I was born and have lived in Burgas’ seaside most of my life. I could say that what inspires, recharges, and grounds me the most is nature and the processes in it. Everything there is in perfect sync, down to the smallest detail, creating a faultless chain of event and reaction, if I may say.

So, together with my wife, we decided to move and live in a small village next to Samokov, just under the Rila mountain. We bought a house with a big garden to take care of, so any free time that I have, I love doing things related to that.

I discovered that I love woodwork and crafts, so on a nice sunny day, you can find me working on a new project involving gardening or working on woodcraft for the house instead of doing blockchain.

Industria: How did you get into blockchain?

Nino B.: I used to work mainly in hospitality for many years, before deciding to make a career change while living in Cyprus and Scotland. Before coming to IT, I used to manage bars and restaurants with different sizes of employees - from 10 to 200. I would say that managing people, even though it was in a different sector, is something that I took with me, even after the transition. 

One of Nino’s passions is making cocktails. Therefore we are extremely happy when he visits the office, because he never misses to surprise us with his tasty drinks.

One of Nino’s passions is making cocktails. Therefore we are extremely happy when he visits the office, because he never misses to surprise us with his tasty drinks.

It took me like two and a half years of constant exam flights and many sleepless nights, but the outcome is something that I keep enjoying every single day. I’ve been with INDUSTRIA for 3 years now and since day one, I’ve been working as part of the Corda team. Actually, when I started, we were only 3 or 4 engineers. 

Since then, lots of things have changed, the team is much bigger now, and there are more and bigger projects that we’re involved.

And to your question, how did I end up on the blockchain side? I would say that it turned out that blockchain found me, rather than me consciously trying to find a company that’s working with blockchain. I was not aware of either R3 Corda or any blockchain technologies when I did the job interview with INDUSTRIA.

During the interview, I had a really interesting conversation with Petko Karamotchev, our CEO. The way he described the processes in Corda, and the passion he put in the conversation was the thing that persuaded me to join the company. And even now, I still quite often experience that same feeling of excitement when working with the team on current projects or laying the foundations of future ones. 

Industria: What does developing blockchain solutions take?

Nino B.: A lot of coffee! 

When developing a private permissioned blockchain application, what should be considered is different from a conventional application in many ways. The first challenge is how the architecture should be designed in such a decentralised system, where you don’t have to think only of read and write permissions to single storage but for as many as the peers in the network are. 

Basically, what facts (transactions) are shared between parties, when, and how? There are different tools to achieve this with different software, but writing a smart contract is a part of all of them. The contract defines the conditions that allow/restrict a party in the network to transact with others. For example, suppose we have a yogurt factory in Bulgaria that operates a node and a client that wants to always sell freshly produced yogurt. In such a case, there might be a condition in the smart contract that specifies the maximum permissible range of delivery time after the milk is produced. Whenever the factory wants to transact with the client, this requirement must be satisfied. 

There might be a third party in the middle, a shipping company, that also has specific requirements when dealing with the factory or the client. So, a permission-based contract with all required business logic implemented is an essential part of any blockchain application. Also, we mentioned facts (transactions). Those facts are immutable (once inserted into the storage, they can’t be updated), and this is yet another point to be considered. 

The out of the box encryption of those facts that comes from that type of application is another challenge, as it’s not so easy to understand if data is stored or shared with other parties. You can’t just browse the database and immediately understand what’s on it. We do this while developing by choosing the test-driven development from the first lines of code. I would say that testing those applications is just as important as creating the right design and architecture.

INDUSTRIA: You mentioned smart contracts. How is such a contract designed?

Nino B.: In most cases, what's included in a smart contract represents an already existing process. Even though we create innovative applications, they do not change existing processes. If we have to build a DLT application for a bank to sell loans to other banks, we have to map all existing process requirements within this smart contract. We might (and will) automate a big part of the process, but the process remains the same. That is really important, and in this particular example, this comes with very strict regulations that should be followed. 

INDUSTRIA: What is it like working with Corda?

Nino B.: Corda is not a blockchain in the sense that it uses a different consensus mechanism in which transactions are cryptographically linked but not batched into a block. It could be described as a peer-to-peer (P2P) distributed ledger technology(DLT) platform that enables the building of applications for different use cases, mostly, but not only, finance, insurance, construction, healthcare, supply-chain.

Key Corda features, just like any DLT, are decentralisation, immutable data, security, and privacy. The really interesting part is how this is achieved - how peer nodes communicate and how information is shared across the network. The mechanism provisioned by Corda is the creation of different flows. They are similar to main classes in Java or C++ in that this is the place where all the business logic is implemented. It’s exactly where the transaction is built.

If a smart contract is the brain of the application, existing flows are its veins. For each transaction, you can define who should agree on its validity by collecting peers’ signatures, but  you could also add data from external systems by using Oracles (network services used as the only source of truth when it comes to external data). 

At the end, each successful flow should lead to transaction finality after verifying it towards the required smart contract and updating the participants’ ledger state.

Because of its unique and novel consensus mechanism, Corda can process thousands of transactions per second and is an industry leader in that regard. 

Also, the way information is shared between different network nodes merits mention. A transaction is only shared on a need-to-know basis, so it’s not available on every node’s ledger but only on ones that have been selected for that transaction.

INDUSTRIA: What is your approach to INDUSTRIA’s projects?

Nino B.: Most of the time, the projects we get at INDUSTRIA are fundamentally different. You would be amazed how many different use cases could fit into and benefit from the features of permissioned private DLT. And because they’re so different, there is no unified pattern that I could say applies to all projects or that I particularly stick to.

In many cases, constant and constructive communication with the client is the very first thing to go on for a particular project. Normally, technical guys have nothing to do with such conversations, but that’s not the case for us. Because this completely new DLT world still contains unknowns, and even though some clients know the benefits of joining it, we still have to understand the whole idea and functionality behind the application to ensure that DLT is required and will bring value, not vice versa.

There is a boom of companies that want to build whatever idea they have using DLT because it’s popular. But this on its own is not enough. The maintenance of a DLT network doesn’t come cheap. So, we go into an open discussion with our clients and try to figure out the best solution for them, even if it ends up not being a DLT solution. And believe it or not, I had to watch videos with titles like ‘Finance for Dummies’ to understand the basic concepts and appropriate context for such conversations. 

Also, as you can imagine, we don’t have some 10+ years old monoliths written on Java 6 that we should try to avoid breaking and maintaining. We have to work with cutting edge technologies and tools consistently. 

This, l actually find, is quite exciting. For different projects, we often choose to use yet another new and innovative technology. Corda by itself is innovative enough, but what I mean is that we need to add such things as digital identities, smart legal contracts, payment service providers, extra confidentiality, and a lot more on top of it as well.

In general, working on projects is never dull and always challenging. You have to continuously learn, improve, and always catch up with the latest trends.

Like I said, there is no unified pattern to how I work on projects, but what I try is always to dive deep and explore the business part of the project and be a step ahead of its current state to try and avoid bottlenecks that might appear later. I feel personally responsible for delivering a product of the highest quality with each project I’m involved in and often demand the same attitude from my colleagues.

INDUSTRIA: You’ve mentioned passion and the strive to acquire new skills. Are these key ingredients for success when managing a project?

These are Maya and Chichi, the two 4-legged members of Nino's family. Maya (Malamute/Huskey) a former city guard is now a proud forest guard, who can't bark, but loves her job. Chichi is adopted by Nino after finding him lifeless on the side of the road..after a few operations and a "vacation " at the hospital, Chichi is the happiest new family member. Nino also has 2 cats and 5 newborn kittens.

These are Maya and Chichi, the two 4-legged members of Nino's family. Maya (Malamute/Huskey) a former city guard is now a proud forest guard, who can't bark, but loves her job. Chichi is adopted by Nino after finding him lifeless on the side of the road..after a few operations and a "vacation " at the hospital, Chichi is the happiest new family member. Nino also has 2 cats and 5 newborn kittens.

Nino B.: The key ingredient for success, in my opinion, is a strong team. One where people can inspire one another. It’s the key ingredient, but not the only one! They should challenge each other, discuss and find solutions to problems together, but most importantly, educate each other.

And it could not be any other way around because new tools and technologies become available almost every day. A single person can’t familiarise themselves with all of them. We have a fantastic culture of knowledge sharing in the company. Anyone in the company can host a session where they share new technologies that they find exciting, a process that can be useful for both their team and the entire company. 

Personally, I love these events and try to host some myself at least once a month. Also, for each new member of the team, there is a quite detailed onboarding program where we give our best to pass the knowledge that we’ve accrued over the years regarding Corda and Kotlin. And because I believe this is of great importance, whenever I find some time in my calendar, I try to improve this process any way I can.

INDUSTRIA: Where is the industry headed? What can we expect to see in the near future? What are some of the obstacles?

Nino B.: If I could use the company’s slogan – Digital Everything. That’s the simple answer. I would say that the industry is headed towards the delivery and unification of innovative solutions for such things as digital identity, digital currencies operated by banks, the digitisation of other assets in the form of NFTs - I can keep going.

You might’ve come across articles about cities of the future or so-called Smart Cities. This will become the place where all such innovations come together. It might not happen this decade, but it’s not far away. 

A few other things that are on the near horizon are the creation of cross-border services for public administrations and their ecosystems. This will be a complete change in the way governments and businesses trust and communicate with each other on an international level. 

Then, with the introduction of the aforementioned digital identities, these services will expand and be available for everyone. A really important step will be transforming current fiat money into digital money. That money will be much more secure and significantly cheaper to create. But there are still quite a few questions that need answering before we reach that point, like how to use that money offline. 

Also, how will blockchain be able to solve the current needs for transactions per second? Current technology is close, but bringing the frequency up to the minimum requirements is a considerable challenge.

About INDUSTRIA

INDUSTRIA is a global technology consulting, development, and ventures company with expertise in the field of enterprise blockchain, confidential computing, process automation, and digital experience. As one of the official partners of R3, we are implementing cutting-edge blockchain technologies and reshaping the fintech world.

At INDUSTRIA, we are focused on providing permissioned blockchain solutions, such as Central Bank Digital Currencies, Electronic Bill of Lading, and Smart Legal Contracts. Our solutions apply to a wide range of industries and use cases to empower and modernise society.

Let’s talk about making your idea a reality — contact us at hello@industria.tech!

Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.